|Short summary from the International Canoe Exhibition held in Birmingham, UK on 14-16 March 2003. Interested in the Pyranha S6X , Liquid Logic Air Head, Space Cadet and Pocket Rocket, Dagger Kingpin and FX, Prijon Release, Robson NRG ? Then click for pictures and general info.|
When I arrived at the ICE, the first thing that struck me was how packed with people it was. For the first time, the canoe exhibition was coupled with the outdoor show and the kayaking section was generating loads of interest. Maybe this is a good thing for the sport ... I am getting agoraphobic though ! I did not stay that long at the show. This is why this summary will focus exclusively on the NEW toys, well at least the toys that were new for me, and 'toy' means 'playboat' for me. I saw the Riot Airs, Wave Sport Transformers etc ... but they are not included in this report because they were not really new boats and got loads of coverage prior to the event. For complete stats about each boat, please look at the manufacturer websites (link provided for each boat).
Shortcut to the boats:
- Pyranha S6X
- Liquid Logic Pocket Rocket, Space Cadet and Air Head
- Dagger Kingpin and FX
- Robson NRG
- Prijon Release
Many people reading this article are interested in the S6 X, the latest Pyranha playboat that got loads of pre-show hype on the Internet and elsewhere. I have to say that the boat was generating loads of interest, so much actually that the guys at Pyranha had to protect it in a steel cage. [ Those Brits can get quite mental with kit you know ]. Well, after much diplomacy, I managed to have the cage open to take some pics.
The following is a summary of the 30 minutes chat with Pyranha. The S6 X builds on the S6 is adds that extra touch of performance for the people that were expecting more from their S6. The Pyranha rep made this very clear: most people will be better off with the S6, the S6X is for more experienced paddlers who want bigger loops, more aerial blunts and so on. First, 3 sizes, too many people found the S6 190 too small and the 200 too big. There are 3 S6X: 185, 195 and 205 (see the Pyranha website for full specs). The hull has now a continuous rocker, the edges are sharper than on the S6 and this combined with the fact that it is also slightly narrower, gives an edgy/tippy feels to the boat. It is of course much faster edge to edge though. The volume has been brought round the cockpit and there is more knee room than in the S6 allowing paddlers to sit further forward. The power pockets have been refined since the S6, especially the back one and will allow for more controlled loops. The S6X come with the synchro outfitting standard in all Pyranha boats (adjustable seat, ratchet backrest, seat pad, hip pads, adjustable thighbraces, grab loops etc). The hull stiffener was changed though, it is now bend to follow the shape of the hull. There are also 6 fin boxes (2x2 under the seat and 1x2 on the hull) fitted as standard. There are no holes in the shell, all bolts (fins, power pocket enhancers, VGHS etc) use inserts molded into the plastic. The boat should not leak at all providing you have a decent spraydeck, this also make the production of the boat more expensive.
The S6X comes in the basic version described above and a 'deluxe' version with an optimiser kit: 2 fiberglass fins, the fin boxes are compatible with other water sports allowing custom configurations, a hull wedge (read below) and two power pocket enhancers. Before speaking about all of those individually, the big thing to remember is that although Pyranha will sell add-ons for the S6X, anybody can customize his boat provided he respects the spacing for the bolts. Custom made fiberglass hull wedges can be made and used with no problem. This is important for Pyranha apparently, they would like people to go back to the good old days of modifying their boat to suit their needs and the S6X is an ideal platform for that. Now the Pyranha add-ons. Two fins that can be mounted either under the seat (two positions according to seat position) or on the sides, called the green grabbers. The fins are in fiberglass and the bolts in nylon, designed to break before damaging the plastic of the boat. There has been some comments on the fin positions and according to Pyranha, the position they have chosen is the one giving the least drag for optimum carving performance. I have not tried and can't comment. As for the side fins, it comes from Pyranha surf boat, the SBT (read here) and apparently, nobody has hurt himself on them. Pyranha also provides two power pocket enhancers for the front and back of the boat. These two bits of molded ABS plastic make the power pockets more grabby and should propel you higher in the air. Now the weird bit: the hull wedge, also called VGHS (variable geometry hull system). It is a piece of HTPE plastic (molded ABS is shown on the pictures but in production, you get a HTPE wedge, the same plastic that the boat shell) that fits on the hull, right behind the seat. If I have understood properly, it is meant to slow down the boat, allowing more control on those waves where the boat has a tendency to shoot down all the time. Apparently, if you sit straight, the boat is slowed down. If you lean forward, you get massive acceleration so no excuse if you wash off the wave. And now, added bonus this works only if the boat is kept flat on the water, edge the boat slightly and all the sucking effect disappears, giving you some extra 'spring type' energy for blunts and so on. Again, I have not tested it and cannot comment. I have been assured there has been loads of testing involved in this process ...[ and I know by whom. Should it not work accordingly, I'll play the 'name and shame' game here, so beware! ]
The new series of Liquid Logic playboats is now in full production and shipping everywhere. Basically, this is a major improvement over the LL Skip/Pop series. The boats come now in three sizes going from tiny (Pocket Rocket) to huge (Air Head). The edges have been refined and this is actually quite strange because they do not sharp at all (by hand contact) but I am told that the boat carves much better that their elder brothers. The length has been reduced a lot and the volume increased loads for higher aerial moves. I am 6'2, 35'' inside leg and can fit in the Space Cadet with no problem. Now I have not tried those boats yet but I know of some friends who demoed them on the water and apparently, the hype is true: they carve better and are faster than the Skip/Pop series, which to be honest is not really a major achievement in itself but definitely the right direction for Liquid Logic. The outfitting has been improved too. Black Diamond grab loops, strong I am told and they look nice too. Seat pad and redesigned hip pads. I am quite keen on custom outfitting jobs and don't mind carving foam myself but I have to say that the seat in the new Liquid Logic was particularly comfy (on the carpet, not tested on the water). I like the idea of a glued on seat pad that will not move when you play. The backband is a HUGE improvement and might actually be the best system I have ever seen (apart from custom minicell jobs). It uses a solid plastic strap (see photo) and there is no way this back band can slip down. Overall, the outfitting looks very nice indeed and other manufacturers (you know who you are) should have a close look at the backband system. Bonus from Liquid Logic, their boat can be ordered in that delightful shade of ... bright pink. I was quite surprised/shocked by the number of people thinking that it actually is a nice colour.
The two 2003 playboats from Dagger are the Kingpin and the FX. Pyranha had the S6 to build on their S6X, Dagger had the G-Force. They built the Kingpin, their competition boat for 2003, knowing what the limitations of the G-Force were. The Kingpin also comes in three sizes but it is a much more aggressive design. The edges have been sharpened. Volume has been added behind the seat and the Kingpin is very balanced on end compared to the G-Force. The tail is wider so that boat surfs flat on the wave. As a result, the Kingpin is faster than the G-Force too. Apart from design consideration, Dagger has also put a lot of thought in the outfitting of their new boats. They argue that when using standard foam pillars, playboats compress slightly when doing loops and therefore lose some pop. To correct this, they have developed a new hull stiffener/rigid pillar system (see here). The hull stiffener is bolted to the hull with to bolts. I have been assured that the system is fully waterproof as the bits of metal visible on the hull (front one is visible on the picture above) are actually not the bolts but the inserts. These bits of metal can be scratched with no danger for the boat. I have been told loads of testing/abuse has been done on the prototype and Dagger is fully confident in their system. Two rigid pillar join the hull stiffener to the deck before the foam pillar (picture here) . The boat is then very rigid both on the wave and when doing loops and other aerial moves that need lots of pop. The outfitting is completed by an adjustable backrest, that you can tighten from the thighbraces but ratchet-less. I am not sure why Dagger did not use a ratchet system in their boats as this system has proven its efficiency. The cherry on the top outfitting wise is a set on inflatable hip pads. This looks a bit like a useless gadget to me but I understand the demand for such a device as many people just don't want to spend 10 minutes making their own hip pads ... Basically there is a pump in front of the seat with a valve. Deflate the hip pads, get in your boat, inflate the hip pads et voilà. We will have to see how long the system will last but again, Dagger seems very confident durability of the system is not an issue. The whole system can be changed should it fail anyway.
Dagger had another toy on show. Toy is a good word really. This is the Dagger FX, a park'n'play boat with variable volume using removable pods, maybe similar in concept to the S6X. The FX is very short, very aggressive, very ugly (well, honestly,would you want to paddle this???). I am not sure what volume the pods actually add to the boat but this is not negligible for sure. The pods are simply screwed onto the deck with two screws and can be stored in the back of the boat if you prefer the low volume option. It has the same outfitting than the Kingpin (and the other Dagger boats for that matter).
The NRG is basically a short/stubby boat with a massive flat planning surface and loads of rocker in the ends. It is said to be stable, easy to handle, forgiving and very loose. The volume distribution gives a lot of bounce. The stern is very short for easier, more aerial loops. There is a lot of foot room for such a small craft, big guys should fit in relatively easily. The NRG comes with the Robson pro-logic seating, a combination of the seat with a very rigid backrest, whose tension is adjustable from the front of the seat. The general stats are: length 184 cm, width 63 cm and volume 190 L.
The Release is the latest playboat from Prijon. This was the most conservative design of the show (for the playboats). The Release is 2 metres long, with volume evenly distributed. It has a long carving rail, going the whole length of the boat. Somehow, it reminded me a bit of the Necky Switch, but with a very different hull. The outfitting is called the Flex 6 outfitting and includes: (1) seat pad (2) hip pads (3) adjustable thighbraces (4) adjustable backband with ratchets on the thighbraces (5) adjustable seat and (6) foam footrest. As all Prijon boat, the Release comes with no front pillar (the HTP plastic is strong enough without a pillar) and therefore the foot room is increased compared to other boats.
Many thanks to Ant and Richard @ System X for the tickets for the show and just being nice guys to have a chat with. Thanks to Simon (Palm/Dagger),Tim (Pyranha) and Molly (Robson) for the time they spent showing me their toys. Also special thanks to all the guys playing in the so called 'wave box' [there was even a competition, would you believe it ?] you made me laugh real hard, I'm sure you had a great time in there ;-)